chapter  6
20 Pages

In the ‘new Great Game’, who is getting played? Chinese investment in Kazakhstan’s petroleum sector


The literature on the geopolitics of Central Asia often describes the situation as a scramble for political influence between China, Russia and the USA. This competition has also been called the ‘grand chessboard’ (Brzezinski 1997: 64), a ‘zerosum game’ (Whitmore 2008: 4) and the re-establishment of China’s ‘traditional vassal relations’ over the region (Swanstrom 2005: 581). The most popular moniker, however, draws a parallel between the current situation and the ‘great game’ played out between Russia and Britain from 1813 to 1907 (Rumer 1993: 89; see also Kleveman 2003; Ahrari 1996; Smith 1996). This ‘new Great Game’ between three major powers to gain a strategic foothold and control the natural resources of the region has permeated much of the analysis of international relations in Central Asia.